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Japan PM promises focus on 'economy, economy, economy'

TOKYO, Japan — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised on Monday tax cuts as part of a new economic program that he hopes will shore up his sagging popularity.

Kishida has seen his ratings plummet to the lowest levels since he took office two years ago, and over the weekend his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost a by-election.

In a legislative policy address to parliament, Kishida listed his economic achievements and pledged to continue fuel subsidies and steps to energise local economies in broad efforts to prop up the flagging Japanese economy.

"Economy, economy, economy. Above all, the economy is my priority," he said.

His government has been working on a fresh stimulus package expected in the coming weeks which aims to ease pressure on Japanese households from rising prices.

He said Monday the programme would include tax cuts for households, encourage corporate investments, and wage growth.

"For the next two to three years, we will intensify support measures that will contribute to strengthening supply capacity including large investments related to national security, such as semiconductors and decarbonisation," Kishida said.

Kishida, 66, can govern until 2025 but there has been speculation that he might call a snap election ahead of a likely tough internal leadership vote in the LDP next year.

On diplomacy, he said he aimed to achieve stable, constructive relations with China.

But he called on Beijing to stop its import ban on Japanese seafood, imposed after Japan started releasing waste-water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors in August.

Kishida also reiterated his willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to work on emotional issues related to Japanese nationals kidnapped by Pyongyang agents during the Cold War.